Yesterday night the Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak, beating the Kansas City Royals, 3-2. In typical fashion as of late, the Yanks didn’t make it easy on themselves, putting the tying run on third in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Yankee Universe held its collective breath as Rafael Soriano got Alcides Escobar to ground out, just missing an infield single that would have tied the game.
Yes the Bronx Bombers won, but claimed victory in the ugliest way ever: on a wing and a prayer.
Lately the team has struggled overwhelmingly on offense, getting outscored 36-18 over the last week. The Yankees have lost seven of their last 10, good enough for fourth place in the American League East. Barely keeping their heads above water, the Bronx Broskis are 22-21, just a game above .500.
It’s not as if the other teams are necessarily winning these games. On the contrary, the Yankees are losing them; beating themselves by not cashing in on chances they create. The team seems to fail at every opportunity with runners in scoring position; in fact, in Monday night’s 6-0 loss to the Royals, they went 0-for-13 with RISP.
Plenty of players need to be held accountable for this recent string of sucktitude.
It’s pretty unfortunate when arguably the best hitter on the team can be read the riot act.
On Saturday the Yankees trailed the Reds 6-3 entering the ninth inning. They fought back however, pulling to within one run with the tying run on third base and two outs. Curtis Granderson worked the count to 3-0, but made some of the worst decisions a hitter could make as the at-bat progressed.
On 3-0, he swung, fouling the ball off to the right. Still in good shape on 3-1, he check-swung at an inside breaking ball that dipped out of the strike zone, a pitch that would have undoubtedly been called ball four to keep the line moving.
Then, with a full count, Granderson beat the payoff pitch into the dirt, grounding out to first to end the game. Yankees lost 6-5, the resilient magic running out of power at the last minute.
Right after I watched them lose, one thought entered my mind: “In 2009, they would have won this game.” Not only that, but it killed me to see Granderson not take a pitch, being in a hitter’s count for basically the entire at-bat.
Granderson is batting .250 for the year, and his BA with runners in scoring position is just .219. He is still leading the team with 13 home runs for the year but hasn’t homered in a week, cementing the Yankees’ slumping status.
The Yankees’ first baseman has been battling some sort of bronchial infection, and he did not start this past weekend’s interleague series vs. the Cincinnati Reds – a series the Yankees lost, two games to one.
Teixeira has only collected 35 hits in 153 at-bats this year, with five homers and 20 RBIs.
I don’t want to say Teixeira is on the decline, because he’s hit 30 or more home runs every year he’s been in the majors since his rookie year – and even in his rookie year (2003) he hit 26. Yet, if Teixeira isn’t hitting a home run, he only seems to pound the ball into the infield shift for a groundout.
Last night he got lucky, weakly squeaking a hit through the shift for a single.
Right now Teixeira’ batting average is at a miniscule .229, his on-base percentage is just .281 and his slugging percentage is only .386. In key spots, when Teixeira is up, the Yankees have to be cringing.
It’s obvious an adjustment has to be made. Whether it’s his batting stance, his swing, his bronchial ailment, or a mental block, Teixeira has become a hitter that the Yanks can’t depend on at the moment.
There’s an old saying about catchers: if a team has a catcher that can hit, it’s a bonus. For a long time the Yankees had that bonus in Jorge Posada, and it continued for them when they signed Russell Martin.
Lately however, Martin must have forgotten that he is a hitter because he’s on the interstate at .179, with only 19 hits in 106 at-bats. He’s smacked four homers and has driven in 10 runs.
Martin isn’t having the worst offensive season; it could be worse. But like the rest of the team, he is not coming up with hits when chances are created. His groundball percentage is 70% with runners in scoring position for the year.
What also puzzles me is that Martin is known for calling a good game behind the plate, yet when the ace of the staff pitches, he is on the bench. Chris Stewart is CC Sabathia’s personal catcher, and unlike Martin, Stewart poses virtually no offensive threat, whatsoever.
In a nutshell, not only is he almost as useful as a screen door in a submarine at the plate, he can’t catch when the Yankees’ number one pitcher is on the mound.
On Monday night Alex Rodriguez struck out in the ninth inning, getting blasted by a deafening chorus of boos and jeers as he walked back to the dugout. After the game the press questioned him about getting booed at home. Like a true professional however, he owed up to it, saying he deserved it for his lack of production.
What’s scary about A-Rod’s slump is that he has stated his physical condition is fine. Usually when he struggles offensively there is more to it; a lingering injury or some soreness.
But it’s not the case.
He was recently quoted as saying that he’s fine physically, capable of hitting for power. Obviously that statement has not exactly gone well-founded, considering he hasn’t hit a home run since May 6. With RISP, A-Rod is scuffling just as the rest of the team is, with a groundball percentage of roughly 61 and a .154 average.
Not so good for a player who claims to be in perfect health.
The 37-year-old starter certainly hasn’t been what the Yankees had anticipated, as he currently leads the majors in losses with six. His latest defeat came on Monday when he surrendered three earned runs on seven hits to the Royals, striking out four and walking three in 5.1 innings pitched.
Although the stat column for his last start doesn’t sound incredibly poor, Kuroda was absolutely shelled on May 16 in Toronto. The Blue Jays lit him up for seven earned runs on eight hits in just five innings. Kuroda served up three home runs in the loss, and is now 1-3 over his last four starts.
What I can’t understand is his position in the rotation. Clearly he isn’t pitching up to his potential, and it’s costing the Yankees. Maybe a move from the number two slot in the starting five could help him; perhaps Joe Girardi should push him down to the fourth hole and see how it goes.
Either way, something needs to be done.
In 2010 Phil Hughes won 18 games, pitching extraordinarily well throughout the first half of the season. After the All-star break he seemed to just fall off the face of the earth; he hasn’t been the same, consistent pitcher since the first half of ’10.
Lately Hughes has been making a case to change that, winning three of his last five games – but those three wins on his ledger are deceptive.
Hughes beat the Seattle Mariners on May 12, a team that has been no-hit this year. He then followed it by beating the Royals, a team eight games below .500, twice. In between he was beaten by the Blue Jays and also lost to the Orioles – two of the three teams in front of the Yankees in the East.
Last night Hughes gave up a home run to Jeff Francoeur and is now the first pitcher since Runelvys Hernandez (2006) to give up at least one homer in each of his first nine starts of the season.
Possibly Hughes’s biggest Achilles Heel has been his pitch count. I lost track last night of how many hitters fouled off his pitches, but I do know that he was up over 70 in the fifth inning. It’s pretty much the story of his every start: the opposing hitters just put good swings on his flat, straight fastball and his pitch count steadily climbs.
Now that Hughes is on a bit of a good streak, I think this is the perfect opportunity for the Yankees to see what they might be able to get for him on the trade block. For awhile now, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about how his value is down and nobody would want him.
But since he’s pitching well at the moment – and he isn’t even signed for next year – I say the Yankees should cut their losses and say goodbye to him. As nicely as Hughes is pitching now, I don’t expect it to continue late in the season against teams like the Rangers, Tigers, and Rays.
Odds are his arm will tire, as it has these past two years, and he will crack down the stretch.
There are so many other players that deserve to be called out.
Dewayne Wise has only collected three hits in 23 at-bats, and yet is in the starting lineup.
Nick Swisher is batting .239 right now.
Robinson Cano had 31 RBIs on May 23 last year. He has 17 on May 23 this year (barring any RBIs in tonight’s game).
CC Sabathia has lost his last two starts.
Ivan Nova’s ERA is 5.69.
The bullpen is about as makeshift as ever without Mariano Rivera and backup closer David Robertson, not to mention third string closer Rafael Soriano came dangerously close to blowing the save last night.
The whole team is contributing to this mess.
Some serious changes need to be made if the Yankees want to pull this sinking ship from the depths of the ocean that is the AL East. Because the way they’ve been playing, it’s crazy to even put the words “World Series” and “Yankees” in the same sentence.
After one of the recent losses, Derek Jeter made a declaration:
“I don’t see anybody popping champagne in May.”
While the Captain is right, he should heed that currently there are a lot of teams better than his at this point in the season. If the Yankees, for whatever reason, don’t make the playoffs, it will be the second time in Jeter’s career (2008) he won’t be popping champagne.
And for the first time in his career the Captain will be eating crow.
The Yankees have begun somewhat of a winning streak, beating the Royals 10-4 on Sunday and following it up with a 5-3 win last night over the Rays. David Robertson nailed down his first save of the season, giving the Yanks their first taste of life without Mariano Rivera.
Although he didn’t make it easy on himself – and he never does – Robertson slammed the door.
Andy Pettitte is set to make his return to the Bronx on Sunday, as he will start against the Seattle Mariners. Pettitte hasn’t exactly been dazzling in his minor league warm-up starts. Nonetheless, he will look to aid the inconsistent and banged up rotation.
Tonight David Phelps will take the hill vs. Tampa Bay, hoping to roll the Yankee win streak over to three games – that is, barring a rainout.
Yes, it’s been a soggy day here in New York.
While things are OK in Yankee land, something happened on Sunday that was all over baseball; something dirty. Something that I just had to write about and express my opinion on.
The Washington Nationals hosted the Philadelphia Phillies, and lost 9-3. In the first inning, Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels beaned 19-year-old rookie outfielder Bryce Harper with a 93 mph fastball, right on the back between the “3” and “4” on his jersey.
Harper recovered and eventually made Hamels pay for it, stealing home plate straight up later in the inning. The Nationals also received retribution by retaliating, plunking Hamels in his first turn at bat in the third inning.
After the game the media questioned Hamels about the HBP. His response:
“I was trying to hit him,” he said. “I’m not going to deny it. That’s something I grew up watching, that’s kind of what happened. So I’m just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people are kind of getting away from it.”
Basically the message Hamels sent was, “Welcome to the big leagues, kid.”
I’m sorry, but that’s just not a good enough reason to intentionally hit someone. It’s a classless act of shameless unsportsmanlike conduct. The way it appeared, Hamels almost seemed proud of himself after the game; happy he got a piece of the new kid everyone is talking about because of his ability and talent.
Unlike Hamels, Harper showed some class afterward. He called Hamels a good pitcher and in a lot of ways brushed the bean ball off his back, not making much of the situation. Harper proved he has a lot of, I’ll say, Jeterian qualities.
Now in certain circumstances, intentional HBPs are…I don’t want to say “acceptable,” but understanding. A hitter can be plunked but for a good reason, such as last year in David Ortiz’s case. He flipped his bat, showed up the Yankees, and as a result CC Sabathia hit him with a pitch later in the Yankees’ series vs. Boston.
It’s just business. And even I have been guilty of such actions, when it was called for.
In fifth grade I played CYO basketball. I was on a travel team and we had a long season; not a lot of my teammates had ever played organized ball before and we took our lumps pretty hard. As a matter of fact we didn’t win a single game that entire season.
One game we were getting absolutely pounded, losing by a significant margin. Late in the fourth quarter, the other team didn’t bench its best player; he was still in the game, knocking down 3-point field goals like it was nothing.
I contested one of his last shots from outside the arc, trying my best to throw him off-balance so that he would miss the basket. It didn’t faze him, though. He put the ball up through my arms and into the net for another 3-pointer, following it by pumping his fist in celebration.
His team and its supporters went bananas for him, cheering and hollering as loud as they could.
As any player with pride and an ego would, I didn’t take kindly to it at all. There was absolutely no reason he still needed to be on the floor with his team winning by that much. Not to mention he came off about as conceited and cocky as any player I had ever faced.
When the final buzzer sounded and the beatdown was over, our teams lined up to slap hands, as all teams do following a game in honor of sportsmanship. I made sure to be the last player in line – he was lined up first on his side.
I figured that would be the best way to execute my little retaliation scheme.
When no one was looking, I hocked the biggest loogie of my life, and then spat it into my right hand. I smeared the matter all over my palm, making sure it was saturated with my slime.
He looked at me with a huge, egotistical ear-to-ear smile on his face as I approached him.
“Good game!” he said to me, with enthusiasm.
As he received a handful of my snot and saliva, I grinned back at him.
“Yeah. Good game.”
Right away he became angry, as any player would after being spat on. He tried to confront me, but my teammates separated us before any other kind of altercation ensued.
He may have shown me up on the court, but I got the last laugh.
It wasn’t long after that I quit playing organized hoops and started playing baseball. The next season I began my Little League career and played baseball through my second year in High School – and never again did I spit on my hand and slap an opposing player with it after a game.
Yet at the same time, I never again faced an athlete as full of himself as that one basketball player.
Was it the nicest way to get retribution? Absolutely not. It was disgusting, actually.
Did it need to be done? In my mind, yes. He had to dish what he served.
As a competitor, you can’t let someone get away with being a show-off. The same way the Yankees couldn’t let Ortiz get away with the arrogant bat flip, I couldn’t let that kid get away with making me and my team look like a bunch of losers.
A message had to be sent – and I made sure to send it.
But going back to the topic at hand, and to bottom line it, Harper didn’t deserve to be hit by Hamels. He didn’t show-off; didn’t show-up the Phillies. In no way did the situation call for a bean ball, and for Hamels to openly admit he hit Harper simply as a so-called “welcoming” to the majors is absurd and nonsensical.
Had Harper crushed a 450’ homer off Hamels, and then danced his way to home plate – the way that kid remained in the basketball game and hit a 3-pointer when his team was already up big, and then reacted as if he had just won the NBA Finals – I would understand it; the situation would call for it.
But the way Harper has conducted himself so far – as a gentleman – it was totally unnecessary. I can only hope the next time he faces Hamels, he does take him deep.
Hamels deserves it. The same way that player deserved a handful of my slobber.
F-18 Navy Hornets, gigantic American flags, player introductions, the Mayor and…
Kermit the Frog!
All the wonderful elements of the Yankees’ home opener this afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What sweetened the whole deal? A 5-0 shutout of the Halos behind a brilliant outing from new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda.
The Japanese-born starter twirled an absolute gem, tossing eight-plus innings while not allowing a run. Kuroda allowed just five hits, walked two, and struck out six.
Talk about a fine way to introduce yourself to the Yankee faithful.
Kuroda probably would have finished the game had he not given up a leadoff infield single to Bobby Abreu in the top of the ninth, but he was at 109 pitches, therefore gave way to David Robertson.
Robertson got Albert Pujols to ground into a 6-4-3 double play before fanning Kendrys Morales for the final out.
Kuroda and Robertson were backed by a solid amount of run support, started by a bases-clearing double off the bat of Nick Swisher in the bottom of the first. The two-base hit plated Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira.
Up 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Rodriguez added a run with one swing. The slugging third baseman crushed a leadoff home run deep to centerfield, a shot that landed in the netting above Monument Park. With that homer, A-Rod tied his former Seattle Mariner teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on the all-time home runs list with 630 career round-trippers.
Curtis Granderson put the icing on the cake with a screaming line drive bullet home run over the right field wall in the fifth. Granderson’s solo blast gave the Yanks all the offense they needed to put the Angels away and boost their win streak to four.
The Yankees couldn’t have asked for more out of their number two starter. The bullpen had thrown 11.1 innings in the final two games the Bombers played in Baltimore, and after an off-day yesterday, the relief corps basically received another day of rest.
Length was key, and Kuroda gave the Yanks more than enough.
It was a nice rebound start for Kuroda, having given up six runs in 5.2 innings in Tampa Bay last Saturday. He used his fastball to his advantage and his slider was dancing all over the strike zone.
Not even the mighty Albert Pujols could figure Kuroda out.
He didn’t utilize his split finger much, but he didn’t need to; he neutralized the strong hitters like Pujols and Morales without giving an inch.
In Japan, the best pitcher on the staff wears the number 18. Kuroda chose to wear number 18 upon his arrival in the Bronx and today he earned the right to wear that number. A crackling fastball, a moving slider, six K’s against a deep Angels’ lineup, and a win – that’s enough to sell me on him.
Now at 1-1 on the year, he will look for his next win Wednesday at home vs. the Minnesota Twins.
Manager Joe Girardi chose to bat Alex Rodriguez third in the lineup today. Having only collected three hits in the first five games of the season without knocking in a run or hitting a homer, it was clear A-Rod needed to move from the cleanup spot on account of lack of production.
All that changed today. The move clearly had an impact.
A-Rod went 3-for-4 this afternoon and belted his first home run of the year, a bomb that landed in Monument Park – not a cheap homer.
With the home run, Rodriguez tied his old buddy Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list. It was A-Rod’s 630th career homer. He also raised his batting average from .174 to .259.
That’s the beauty of baseball: one day can turn everything around.
The Yankee right fielder is becoming a valuable asset to the team in the early-going. Nick Swisher has reached base in every game this season. He’s hit safely in six games and in the one game he didn’t reach base by way of a hit, he drew two walks.
Last Saturday against the Rays, it looked as though the Yankees were done in the ninth when Swisher stepped up to the plate. He proceeded to cream the ball for a home run to keep the Yankees alive, although they eventually lost 8-6.
In the series finale at Camden Yards vs. the Orioles, Swisher came up huge with what proved to be the game-winning home run, a two-run blast that gave the Bombers a 6-4 lead they held onto for the victory.
Today Swisher had the huge double in the first to clear the bases and give the Yankees an early lead and a ton of momentum.
So far this year Swisher has two homers, nine RBIs, has seven hits, has drawn five walks, and has scored three runs.
If there is a Yankee hero at this moment, it’s Swisher. Right now, he can do no wrong.
Honorary First Pitch
A special dignitary tossed out the honorary first pitch this afternoon: recently-retired catcher Jorge Posada. The Yankees stood behind the mound out of respect to their former teammate and watched as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
There was a lot of speculation as to what was going to transpire during this particular part of the Opening Day festivities. I had heard a rumor Posada was going to go to the mound, then one of his teammates would switch with him – and he would actually catch the honorary pitch rather than throw it, because that’s what he is most known for in Yankee lore.
But that didn’t happen.
While his teammates and family watched, Posada threw the first pitch to his dad who stood behind the plate to catch it. Following the first pitch, Posada emotionally hugged each of his Yankee friends.
It was a touching moment and Posada received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd.
It was a promising win for the Yankees. The Angels are the only team with a lifetime winning record against the Bombers and with the additions of Pujols and starter C.J. Wilson (who the Yankees will get a look at tomorrow afternoon) they only got stronger; more difficult to beat.
But they got beat today – stifled by a lights-out performance from Kuroda.
Curtis Granderson’s bullet home run marked the second year in a row he has gone yard in the Yankees’ home opener. He homered last year in the Yanks’ win over the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.
Phil Hughes toes the rubber tomorrow against the Angels, gunning for win number one on the year. Hughes threw the ball well in his first start on Sunday in Tampa Bay, but came up just short.
He will look to pick up his first win and roll the Yankees’ win streak over to five games.
On a side note, is anyone else growing tired of the promos for the new “3 Stooges” movie?
If the three stooges walked up to me and paid me $50 to see this abomination, I would hand them a $100 bill and simply say, “Let’s pretend this never happened.”
I understand it’s totally irrelevant to the Yankees, but the TV spot kept popping up during YES’ broadcast of the game this afternoon. I just know a bad movie when I see one – and I won’t be seeing the “3 Stooges.”
No one gave the Yankees a fighting chance when 2011 started. The lineup and defense was declared “old.” The pitching rotation was called “comically thin,” and the fact that the Yankees did not pick up a huge free agent in the off-season led every skeptic to believe they were going to fail this year.
Now look where they are – and who is struggling for their playoff lives.
The Boston Red Sox were the favorites. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, bolstering their already-potent, veteran-laden lineup. All the folks who talked up the Red Sox to win it all this season are probably kicking themselves now, as the Red Sox are just 2 ½ games in front of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Wild Card race.
Yesterday the Yankees beat the Rays twice, sweeping a day-night double header. The Bronx Bombers won both games by the same count, 4-2, and captured their 17th American League Eastern Division title.
Meanwhile Boston dropped their second straight game – and they are 3-7 over their last 10 games. The Red Sox have gone ice cold at the wrong time and the Yankees have become red hot at the right time.
With the Yanks no longer having to worry about winning the division and the end of the regular season right around the corner, it’s that time of the year again: the time to reward the Yankee players for what they have achieved this season.
It’s the third annual Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards!
Let us all find out who this year’s winners are.
Yankee Yapping Milestone Man Award
Winners: Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera
In 2009 both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera accomplished something special. Jeter became the all-time Yankee hits leader and Rivera captured his 500th career save.
Fast forward two years later and both of these perennial Yankees are still making history.
On July 9, Jeter stepped up to the plate at home and clubbed a home run to deep left-center field, his 3,000th career hit. He became the first Yankee to ever record 3,000 hits and the second person since Wade Boggs to leave the yard for 3K.
Rivera became the all-time saves leader on Monday, nailing down his 602nd career save, securing a 6-4 Yankee win over the Minnesota Twins.
With 602 saves under his belt he passed Trevor Hoffman for most career saves all-time. Including the postseason, Rivera has 644, as he also has saved 42 playoff games.
Jeter and Rivera have only solidified what we as Yankee fans have known all along: that they are legends. No one may ever duplicate what both of these men have accomplished. In the foreseeable future, there won’t be another Yankee to get 3,000 hits.
There’s also a good chance no one will ever do what Rivera has done in terms of closing ballgames.
I don’t have to sell the Captain and Mo at all; there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said a million times. Jeter and Rivera have earned the love and adoration of every Yankee fan in the world. Both are five-time World Series champs, and have an opportunity to become six-time champs this year.
Time will tell if they get there, but until then, there are Yankee Yapping Milestone Man winners. Congrats guys!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player Award
Winner: Curtis Granderson
These past few years the Yankees have had a number of players in the running for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Last year it was Robinson Cano, this year it is Curtis Granderson. The centerfielder’s .270 batting average may be the only statistic that is holding him down, but he has done very well for himself in every other offensive category.
At press time Granderson leads the majors in runs scored (134) and RBIs (119), and is second in home runs (41) to Toronto’s Jose Bautista (42).
Yet, remember the old saying, which originated in 2005 when David Ortiz was in the running for MVP: it should go to “full-time players” only. Defense is part of being a baseball player too, and Granderson has exhibited excellent D.
In the field he is showing off his capability with 11 assists and a .992 fielding percentage.
Throughout the year Granderson has come up in some huge spots on both sides of the field, and has turned into the elite player the Yankees traded for before 2010. He has made a lot of progress and stepped up, especially against left-handed pitching – which was something scrutinized when the Yanks acquired him.
The big fuss about Granderson was his strife against lefties. But that has not affected him this year.
In fact, Granderson is actually hitting .277 off southpaws, as opposed to his .266 BA vs. righties. 16 of his 41 homers have come off lefties and his slugging percentage vs. left-handers is .614. Against righties, Granderson is slugging .549.
He has a chance to win the AL MVP this year. But if he doesn’t, he can always take solace knowing he has won the Yankee Yapping MVP Award. Congrats Curtis!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year Award
Winner: CC Sabathia
I started this blog in 2009 and this will be the third Ace of the Year Award I will be handing out. All three years it has gone to the same man and rightfully so.
It was announced tonight that CC Sabathia will not make another start before the American League Division Series begins, which means he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA this year. He racked up 230 strikeouts, logged 237 1/3 innings, and registered three complete games (one of which was a shutout).
Sabathia has been the horse since day one; the leader. He takes the ball every fifth day and the Yankees seem to have a certain confidence and swagger whenever he’s on the mound. I think they take the field knowing they have a great chance to win with Sabathia pitching.
When the postseason begins, Sabathia has to be his usual self. Not that he pitched all that poorly last year, but he did end the American League Championship Series with a 6.30 ERA while surrendering seven earned runs in just 10 innings. If he can be that dominant pitcher we have seen, the Yanks can certainly win a lot of games. If not, they are in big trouble.
But we know what to expect from him – and he usually delivers. Sabathia won’t win the Cy Young Award because Justin Verlander of Detroit basically has that locked up. But he did win Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year for the third consecutive time.
Yankee Yapping Silver Slugger Award
Winner: Robinson Cano
The Yankees have a lot of players to thank for where they are. But the biggest thanks probably deserves to go to the studly second baseman Robinson Cano.
After he showed off his might winning the Home Run Derby, Cano continued to portray exemplary power – which is something that sometimes doesn’t happen. There has been a theory going around these past few years that the derby messes up a hitter’s swing.
Take David Wright on the other side of town, for example. He came close to winning the Home Run Derby in 2006, but according to some experts, never put up the same power numbers after that year. Same thing goes for Bobby Abreu, who won the derby in 2005, but never hit more than 20 dingers in a season following it.
Cano on the other hand has 27 homers, 116 RBIs, and is batting .305. He has been a consistent force in the Yankee lineup, taking on the cleanup hitter role in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. He has thrived in everything that has been thrown at him and continues to impress with his sweet swing and smooth stride.
Like Granderson he may be considered for AL MVP Award – last year he finished third in the voting. Whatever happens, he has been a major reason for the Yanks’ success. Congrats Robinson!
Yankee Yapping WTF?! Award
Winner: A.J. Burnett
When Spring Training started, Yankee analysts (namely Ken Singleton) raved about the difference in A.J. Burnett. Singleton called his pitching delivery “completely revisited” and after watching a bullpen session, said Burnett’s fastball and curve ball were “crackling through the strike zone.”
Under the tutelage of first-year pitching coach Larry Rothschild, I thought he could finally go back to that dominant form he once displayed when he pitched for the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. A lot of other fans also felt Burnett was primed for a big year.
But those thoughts were not well-founded.
The man who was signed to a lucrative five-year, $82.5 million contract has not lived up to it, as he is 10-11 with a 5.28 ERA – after going 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 2010. He has given up 107 earned runs in 182 1/3 innings pitched, and has allowed more than a hit per inning. He also leads the league in wild pitches with 25 – and this is the third time in his career he has led the league in that category.
For the past few years I have attempted to defend Burnett for the sake of our initials. I can’t take away from the fact that he pitched the game of his life in Game Two of the ’09 World Series. If he had not won that game and pitched as effectively as he did, I’m not convinced the Yankees would have beaten the Phillies.
Yet New York sports supporters have one question, Burnett: what have you done for me lately?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And there is no way I can defend an ERA of 5.28 in a pitcher who cost $82.5 million. Burnett was supposed to be a solid number two starter and he hasn’t even proved to be a good number four starter; maybe an acceptable number five man, but he is nowhere near what the Yankees expected him to be.
I lost a little bit of respect for him when he made a start in Minnesota vs. the Twins on Aug. 20. Burnett tossed just 1 2/3 innings before Joe Girardi came to the mound to take the ball from him. He allowed seven earned runs on five hits, walking three batters and striking out only one.
As he left the mound, Burnett lipped off at his manager and stormed into the clubhouse.
In my mind it was a complete and utter display of unprofessionalism.
After this year he is still owed $33 million – which is a lot of money. Unless the Yanks can get rid of him somehow, they might be stuck with him for at least another year and a half. I just don’t know what to make of him anymore.
Burnett I have one question for you: WTF?!
Yankee Yapping “He Proved Me Wrong Award”
Winner: Ivan Nova
I had serious doubts about Ivan Nova when the year began. In a big game, I did not want to trust him with the ball, being that he was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) last year. In my mind I drew a comparison between him and Ian Kennedy (when he was a Yankee), thinking he would flop.
But soon after I found myself comparing him to Kennedy, I found myself comparing him to Chien-Ming Wang, being that his sinker ball has worked so effectively and he has induced a good amount of ground ball outs. Using that pitch, he has cruised to a 16-4 record this year with a 3.62 ERA.
Nova is in the running for the American League Rookie of the Year and is probably going to be the number two starter in the postseason – quite a responsibility for a 24-year old.
Although he has certainly proved me wrong as far as the regular season goes, he still has to show he can get it done when it matters. It remains to be seen whether Nova can help carry the Yanks in the postseason. But for now, he has shown an outstanding capability on the mound.
For the past two years pitchers have won Rookie of the Year; Andrew Bailey of Oakland in 2009 and Neftali Feliz of Texas in ’10. I wish Nova the best of luck to keep the line of pitchers winning ROTY moving.
And if he doesn’t win it, at least he won a Yankee Yapping Award. Congrats Ivan!
Yankee Yapping Best Season From a Newcomer
Winner: Russell Martin
He may be Canadian but after this year, I think he is officially a New Yorker.
Russell Martin was a wonderful pickup by the Yanks before 2011 commenced. He has displayed sheer durability, playing in 121 games this year. His batting average is hovering around.236, but he has smacked 17 home runs and knocked in 62 runs while scoring 55.
There’s an old saying about catchers: having one that can hit is a bonus – and we have that bonus.
Martin has also done very well working with a pitching staff he has never worked with before. He has done very well with every hurler on the staff and in the bullpen, and can easily call a good game behind the plate.
I’m looking forward to another year with Martin in pinstripes and he deserves the honor of being called the best newcomer to the team. Congrats Russell!
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: David Robertson
This will be David Robertson’s second consecutive Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year win. Last year he grinded through a slow start, only to become a lights-out relief man.
This year Robertson was an All-Star and in relief he is 4-0 with a tiny 1.11 ERA. The young man out of Alabama has struck out 96 batters in 64 2/3 innings pitched, has notched 39 holds, and has carved his niche as the primary setup man for Rivera.
He’s also earned the nickname “Houdini” for being able to get out of tight jams and sticky situations.
Robertson has been an asset ever since he joined the Yanks in 2008, and they have been lucky to have such a consistent bullpen pitcher on their roster. He scuffled a bit in last year’s postseason, but if he maintains that consistency he displayed all season, he will do just fine.
Yankee Yapping Future Star Award
Winner: Jesus Montero
On Sept. 1 Jesus Montero made his much-anticipated debut in a game against the hated Boston Red Sox. He went 0-for-4 while getting hit by a pitch, and didn’t impress many fans in his first game.
But he collected his first hit in the next game against Toronto, and a few days later on Sept. 5 crushed his first two homers against the Baltimore Orioles at home. He became the first Yankee since Shane Spencer (1998) to hit his first two Major League homers in the same game.
Montero has only played in 14 games and still has a long way to go in terms of showing off what he can do. There are certainly high hopes and expectations, but from what he has given us so far, I believe he is capable; he can live up to the hype.
With Jorge Posada likely on his way out and Francisco Cervelli constantly getting knocked in the head, Montero is likely the catcher of the future.
With Martin around for at least another year, he can learn the ropes a little bit and still act as a designated hitter. That way when his time comes and he is the every day catcher, he will be more than ready.
In the meantime, it was smart of the Yankees to call him up and at least give him a taste of the majors. If he gets his little bit of experience now, I have no doubt he will be very dangerous in the future. And for that, he wins the Yankee Yapping Future Star Award.
Well, that about does it for this year’s awards blog. Congrats to all the winners (save for A.J. Burnett; I’m just sorry for him at this point) and congrats to the Yankees on the AL East crown. Within the next few days we will have our ALDS opponent, so look out for previews and playoff analysis.
October, here we come.
Before this season began, many folks called the Yankees’ starting rotation “comically thin.” Those same folks praised the Yankee bullpen, calling them dynamic and strong. Rightfully so, considering they have Mariano Rivera, and they bolstered the ‘pen with the signing of Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year with 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right now, it’s almost as if everyone had it backwards.
A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia have been pitching great, giving the Yankees length and quality. Each of the starters, who everyone thought were going to pitch terribly, are doing their part. The bullpen on the other hand has been faltering and failing.
Case in point: tonight.
With the Yankees leading 2-1 in the eighth, Soriano plunked Carlos Quentin, who was quickly replaced by pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge (more from him later). The next batter, Paul Konerko, pulled a home run over the left field wall, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees tried to stage a comeback in the ninth; Derek Jeter singled, Curtis Granderson sacrifice bunted him over to second, and then Mark Teixeira walked.
Then it became the Lillibridge defense show.
Alex Rodriguez took a pitch to deep right field, all the way to the wall. On his horse, Lillibridge ran and tracked the ball down at the wall for the second out.
Robinson Cano, as the Yanks’ last hope, lined a falling blooper to right, again setting up another excellent play for Lillibridge; he dove, caught the ball, and ended the game.
The only two runs the Yankees generated were by solo home runs, off the bats of Cano (in the second inning) and Brett Gardner (in the fifth).
As a team the Yanks only had four hits tonight and two of them went over the wall. The Yankees collectively have 38 homers, and it’s evident they are relying heavily on the home run.
And as they say: if you live by the home run, there’s a chance you can die by the home run.
Tonight, that was the case.
But it probably should not have come to that in the first place. The Yankees brought Soriano to New York to fill the void in the eighth inning. He was meant to get big outs in the eighth inning; to hold close leads late in the game and set up Rivera, but so far he hasn’t done much of that.
In fact, Raphael the Ninja Turtle seems to be doing more for the Yankees than Rafael Soriano.
He is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and he has more walks (8) than strikeouts (7). He left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths last night, not going for that popup behind the mound. Tonight he blew a tremendous outing by Nova, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits.
Nova walked two and struck out three, the longest outing of his young career.
It was unfortunate for Nova, because if he had won he would have moved to 2-2 on the year. Instead Soriano blew the game and his chance at his second win of the season. Soriano’s body language has also been rubbing certain people the wrong way.
When he surrendered the home run to Konerko, he didn’t look fazed; he remained stoic and it didn’t look as though he cared he had blown the lead. There are some pitchers who do not show emotion, but with the way Soriano has been recently pitching, it wouldn’t kill him to look a little upset with himself.
Yet as poor as Soriano has been pitching, he isn’t alone. Rivera has blown his last two save opportunities, both after good performances from the starters.
On April 19 in Toronto, Burnett gave the Yanks a great outing, turning in 5 1/3 innings and only allowing two earned runs. Rivera blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-5 in 10 innings. Fast forward five days later in Baltimore, and another quality start, this one by Garcia.
Six innings and no earned runs by the starter and Rivera came in and once again let go of the lead. The Yankee offense bailed him out, taking the game into extra innings to beat the Orioles 6-3 in 11 frames, but it still goes as a blown save for Rivera.
The Yankee bullpen, as dynamic and strong as it can be, is not doing the job.
The only bright spot seems to be David Robertson, who has five holds so far this year. Robertson is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Tonight he tossed 2/3 of an inning, struck out one, and did not issue a walk.
It’s nice to know we have one guy out there doing his job, but the rest of the relievers are ghosts.
Tomorrow night Colon (1-1, 3.50 ERA) will take the hill for the Yankees (12-8), looking to get them back in the win column. He will face Chicago ace Mark Buehrle (1-2, 5.40 ERA).
As for the bullpen, minus Robertson, I have one closing thought for you:
Act like you care. Get your heads in the game. Start doing work and taking care of business.
Today the Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 in Tampa, leaving only three more Grapefruit League games left on the schedule before they start playing for real on Thursday. The highlight of the afternoon was a towering, two-run homer off the bat of Alex Rodriguez that flew over the batter’s eye in centerfield, his sixth round-tripper of the spring.
A few decisions and moves were made recently, most notably the trade of Sergio Mitre, the signing of Kevin Millwood, and the naming of the fourth and fifth starting pitchers.
Yesterday Mitre was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson. In this afternoon’s win over the Bucs, Dickerson made his Yankee debut and put on quite a hitting show. The 28 year-old pounded out three hits (including a double) in three at-bats while knocking in a run.
Unfortunately Dickerson was forced to leave the game with an apparent hamstring injury after notching his third hit. As of this point, the Yankee medical staff can only diagnose his injury as “spasms and cramping.”
Tough luck for the kid to go down – especially following such an impressive debut. What’s more, it hurts the Yankees, being that Curtis Granderson is not yet confirmed to be playing on Opening Day in light of his oblique injury. Yesterday Granderson did some running and agility drills, as he hopes to avoid beginning the 2011 season on the disabled list.
Millwood, 36, was signed just yesterday. He owned the worst record in baseball last year, going 4-16 for the Baltimore Orioles with a 5.10 ERA. However, he has been a dominant pitcher in the past, leading the league with the lowest ERA in 2005 (2.86), making the All-Star team in 1999, and finishing third in the N.L. Cy Young voting in 1999 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Even though he has proven himself in the past, he hasn’t proven anything yet. He will probably have to go through extended Spring Training and wouldn’t make the team unless he flourishes, another pitcher struggles, or another pitcher gets hurt.
Along with the trade and the signing, it was announced that Ivan Nova will be the Yankees’ number four starter this year, and Freddy Garcia will pitch every fifth day. Bartolo Colon, who many people feel had a better spring than Garcia, will pitch out of the bullpen.
Garcia owned a 5.93 ERA in four spring outings, throwing 13 2/3 innings. Colon held down a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, giving most people the impression Colon should have won the number five job.
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi maintained that Garcia, 35, was the favorite to win the spot because Colon, 37, hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since 2009. Girardi added that, for his standards, Garcia had a good spring.
Now that we are only six days away from Opening Day, here is how Girardi should build his roster. Only 25 players can be at Yankee Stadium on Thursday and these men (I feel) have earned the honor of making the trek from Tampa to the Bronx.
1) Derek Jeter – SS
2) Alex Rodriguez – 3B
3) Robinson Cano – 2B
4) Mark Teixeira – 1B
5) Jorge Posada – DH
6) Russell Martin – C
7) Brett Gardner – LF
8) Nick Swisher – RF
9) Curtis Granderson* -CF (*if he does not start the season on the DL)
10) Andruw Jones – Fourth Outfielder
11) Eric Chavez – Backup IF/Utility
12) Eduardo Nunez – Backup IF/Utility
13) Jesus Montero – Backup Catcher
14) CC Sabathia – No. 1 Starter
15) A.J. Burnett -No. 2 Starter
16) Phil Hughes – No. 3 Starter
17) Ivan Nova – No. 4 Starter
18) Freddy Garcia – No. 5 Starter
19) Bartolo Colon – Long Relief
20) Mark Prior – Middle/Long Relief (he is interchangeable; can be used for both)
21) Joba Chamberlain – Middle Relief
22) David Robertson – Middle Relief
23) Rafael Soriano – Setup Man
24) Boone Logan* (*Pedro Feliciano will most likely start the season on the DL) – Lefty specialist(s)
25) Mariano Rivera – Closer
Most of these players will be in the Bronx next week and all of them deserve to be. Girardi will probably make a few modifications to my Opening Day roster, but expect to see most of these names called during the pregame ceremony on Thursday.
Mark Prior deserves to be on the roster because of how well he pitched this spring (eight games, 7 2/3 innings pitched, three hits, three runs, one earned run, 1.17 ERA, 11 Ks, and five walks).
He earned the chance to prove himself and could provide the Yanks with some solid middle and/or long relief. I’m not sure if Girardi will send Prior to the Bronx, but if they don’t call him up, at least at some point in the season, they are making a mistake.
If Granderson does start the season on the DL, obviously a spot will be open and it’ll be a toss up. I would expect someone like Justin Maxwell (.206 in Spring Training, but he only had 34 at-bats, three RBIs, and four runs scored) or even Dickerson (if he is healthy, given his injury today) to backup Jones in centerfield. That spot would only be open until Granderson returns, anyway.
Another position in question is the backup catcher role. I feel it is time for Montero to at least gain some experience on the Major League level. Today it was reported that Gustavo Molina could back up Martin at catcher, until Francisco Cervelli returns from his foot injury.
If you ask me though, Montero needs a taste of the big leagues – even if he doesn’t spend the entire season in the show.
Whichever way it goes, in a matter of days, anticipate Girardi giving the official word on who is going to the Bronx and who will be heading to the minors.
It’s the same story ever year when it comes to the first Spring Training game.
The Yankees play the first game in their home pinstripes, but every game after that sport their navy blue batting practice jerseys. There are critics who say, “It’s Spring Training. Who cares? These games don’t matter.” Then there are so-called “marks” (like me) who say, “Baseball is back. It’s not exactly Opening Day, but we are watching a Yankee baseball game in the winter.”
There are players wearing numbers in the high 90s and contrary to regular season games, Spring Training games can end in ties. What’s more, by the time the game reaches the sixth inning, there’s usually no one but minor leaguers on the field.
Still, it’s baseball. And a lot of people remain interested in these exhibitions.
Today the Yanks began their Spring Training journey with a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies…or basically Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Raul Ibanez and a whole bunch of Phillies who will either be backups or start the 2011 regular season in the minors.
Most of the Yankee regulars played today, aside from Russell Martin–his knee is still recovering from surgery and according to Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, he might be behind the plate catching live by the end of next week.
Francisco Cervelli started at catcher today and got the Yankees on the board in the bottom of the second. After Robinson Cano reached on an error (originally ruled a base hit) Cervelli laced a double down the left field line to knot the game at one.
Mark Teixeira looked good in his first game with an RBI triple in the fifth to score Eduardo Nunez.
Minor Leaguer Jorge Vazquez had two hits, one being a bomb. Vazquez smashed a two-run home run over the batter’s eye in centerfield, which gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately their lead was short-lived.
A blooper by Dan Sardinha in the top of the eighth off Eric Wordekemper plated two runs for the Phils and gave them a 5-4 lead.
The Phillies previously scored two runs in the fifth off reliever and 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, David Phelps. Pete Orr doubled to score Wilson Valdez and Orr later came to the plate on an RBI single by Ross Gload.
Jeff Larish grounded into a 6-4-3 double play which scored Ben Francisco to give the Phils a 1-0 lead in the top half of the second. Francisco tripled to reach third on a ball Nick Swisher could have played for a single.
Was it an ugly game? Yes, but most Spring Training games are. Are the Yankees looking to win? Yes and no. It’s more to get a feel for the season and to prepare, and even the most jaded fan can tell they are not “loading up with big bullets and guns,” so-to-speak.
Bartolo Colon got the nod to start by Girardi, who felt Colon would be ready to pitch since he played winter ball. Colon’s line wasn’t terrible: two innings pitched, two hits, an earned run, a walk and no strikeouts. He only tossed 36 pitches.
For Philly, Hamels made the start and his line was almost identical to Colon’s: two innings pitched, one hit, an earned run, a walk, and two Ks.
The Yanks and Phillies will travel across Tampa Bay and play again at the Phillies’ home base in Clearwater tomorrow afternoon.
Notes & Things to Out Look For
· The Yankees honored the late George Steinbrenner with a ceremony before their first Spring Training game today. Only fitting, considering it was their first preseason game without their boss. It was a beautiful gesture and I am sure the Steinbrenner family is appreciative of all the love the Yankees are showing their fallen boss.
· Ken Singleton of the YES Network said A.J. Burnett threw to hitters during live batting practice the other day and looked exceptional. According to Singy, Burnett’s fastball was “crackling,” his curveball had tilt, and his delivery “has been re-visited.” It sounds as if new Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild has helped him a lot and the season hasn’t even started yet. He will pitch Wednesday March 2 vs. the Houston Astros.
· It’s already been established that Joba Chamberlain will be a bullpen pitcher this season. He does look heavier, but he was pretty good in relief today. Chamberlain pitched a 1-2-3 third inning with one strikeout. He topped out on the speed gun in the mid-90s.
· David Robertson pitched a scoreless fourth inning with two strikeouts, no hits, and a walk. He and Chamberlain might be battling this spring for the primary middle relief role, what with Rafael Soriano in the eighth inning role. Either way, the Yankee bullpen will shape out. I think they will be a solid corps of relievers and probably be at the top of the league.
· Top pitching prospects Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Manuel Banuelos have been nicknamed “The Killer B’s.” All will be starting 2011 in the minors but can make that push for the bigs. Girardi said Banuelos is “way ahead of his age” (only being 19, but will turn 20 on March 13).
· David Phelps is a 14th round draft pick out of Notre Dame and the Yankees’ Pitcher of the Year for 2010. He didn’t really impress me much today, giving up two earned runs on three hits. But it’s only the first game. Lucky for him, he has time to impress.
· Alex Rodriguez hit a double today but didn’t score. He looks good and I expect him to have a typical “A-Rod season,” if you will. No need to overanalyze him.
· Andruw Jones played in pinstripes for the first time today. He drew two walks and struck out, and was also picked off at first base. He isn’t as fast as he used to be, but he will definitely be a better defensive player than Marcus Thames. Jones is wearing Johnny Damon’s old number, 18.
· The end of the top of the seventh inning today ended in style. Outfielder Justin Maxwell, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the off-season, made a sweet diving catch to end the frame. Very nice work from Maxwell; he could be a great asset to the Yanks. Or trade bait. Today I read Francisco Liriano is on the Yankees’ radar.
· When I said that Jorge Vazquez’s home run was a bomb, I meant it. He crushed the ball over the batter’s eye in centerfield–not a cheap home run. He also had a base hit in the ninth to keep the Yankees’ little rally alive, although they couldn’t finish it. If that isn’t making a great first impression, I don’t know what is. Finally, a guy named Vazquez doing something positive for the Yankees…
· Bartolo Colon is fat. We all know.